“It’s a good thing!” Hailing from Jersey City, New Jersey as the second of six children, Martha Helen (Kostrya) Stewart proved her party planning skills at an early age when New York Yankees star Mickey Mantle and his wife entrusted the 10-year-old Stewart to babysit their four sons and organize their birthday parties. Eventually turning her attention to modeling in her teens, Stewart continued to hone her cooking, sewing and gardening skills from her parents before enrolling at Barnard College where she continued to model for Chanel and double majored in History and Architectural History after marrying Andrew Stewart in 1961.
After launching a second career as a stockbroker in the late 1960s, Stewart’s true passion for decorating and catering emerged as she and Andrew moved to Westport, Connecticut where they purchased and restored an 1805 farmhouse on Turkey Hill Road, which would later be the model for her television studio. Eventually releasing her first cookbook in 1982 followed by the Martha Stewart Living magazine in 1990, Stewart eventually made her way to television in 1993 where she became the go-to for all things home and party related on Martha Stewart Living until 2004 when everything came to a crashing halt. Convicted of a felony conspiracy involving the ImClone stock trading scandal, Stewart was sentenced to five months in federal prison and two years of supervised probation. While many believed Stewart’s career as a media mogul was completely over, she didn’t fall so easy and, in 2005, launched her comeback on the syndicated show Martha. Netting profits the following year, Stewart put the cold prison walls behind her and returned to the sophisticated and posh comforts of her home on Mount Desert Island in Seal Harbor, Maine.
Affectionately known as Skylands, the 35,000 square-foot home was built in 1925 by Henry Ford’s son Edsel for his wife Eleanor and was purchased by Stewart in 1997 for an undisclosed amount after she attended a cocktail party, fell in love with the home and met the owner. But, the house wasn’t all that came with Stewart’s purchase as it was fully furnished and included silver, glassware, china and linens as well as 63 acres of gardens designed by famed landscape architect Jens Jenson. Delighted with the purchase, Martha told Architectural Digest in 2015, “I didn’t have to buy a plate, although I’ve certainly added my fair share.”
With the house nestled among a myriad of vines and trees, the outside of Skylands features multiple stone patios, a fire pit with cozy circular seating, reflecting pools and a path that winds through the dense wooded landscape. Beyond the large greenhouse that Stewart continues to use for growing a variety of plants and vegetables is a guest cottage that matches the main home and a playhouse with an indoor squash court, which is a favorite among Stewart’s grandchildren. An avid equestrian who spends summers at what she calls her “favorite place,” Stewart makes great use of the stables and takes her role “as the caretaker of an American treasure” very seriously by ensuring the 200-seat Catholic Church is preserved on the property as well as the signature mark of the Ford family’s time there—the automobile tycoon’s mechanic garage.
Made entirely of on-site quarried pink granite, the inside of Skylands is certainly just as stunning and well-preserved as the exterior. Guests enter the home through the Main Hall where they are greeted by a colossal fireplace, ocean views and a mixture of Ford family antiques and Stewart’s personal and well thought out touches. Boasting a dozen bedrooms that the 75-year-old businesswoman, author and television personality tastefully and meticulously decorated to match the early 1900s style of the estate, many who visit the home have compared it to stepping back in time as Stewart even invested in restoring the home’s original Frigidaire refrigeration units. But, perhaps the most luxurious room and the heart of the entire property is the 60-foot living room that is equipped with a myriad of chairs and sofas that make it the perfect place to entertain multiple guests or lounge with family around the fire during Maine’s notoriously frigid winters.
And, as you might expect, Skylands remains in pristine condition thanks to Stewart’s watchful and keen eye for detail that have ensured the estate stands apart from so many other homes as its value and luxury are deeply rooted in its rich history. Undeniably an iconic American country house and treasure, there’s no question why the former Ford estate is Stewart’s favorite getaway to find inspiration and a common feature in her magazine and dozens of cookbooks. Of course, while it’s only one of the domestic goddess’s many estates, there’s plenty of reasons to see why Skylands has a softer and more luxurious appeal since her brief stay at Club Fed nearly a decade ago.